Geoff has kindly agreed to talk a little about his excellent novel Live It Again–a paranormal suspense that will have you on the edge of your seat.
Annie: Live It Again really keeps the reader in suspense throughout the book about whether Hugh will get back to his family as he struggles to change his life and remedy mistakes. He’s not always successful. Was it difficult balancing this tension in the book? Was it difficult pacing the failures and successes until the reader is rooting for Hugh to win, yet not at all certain he will?
Geoff: Not at all. Hugh quickly learns that time and events don’t flow smoothly. I realized early on that I didn’t want to make the changes in history into a ‘Butterfly Effect’ story. I wanted them to be subtle – sometimes history repeated itself perfectly, and in other instances things went way out to lunch. It was more the effect it had on Hugh’s way of perceiving these changes that I had fun with. Hugh makes no world-altering changes in history because he’s just a little too selfish and afraid to attempt it. He wants what we all want – feeling of home and normalcy.
Annie: Talk a little about how Live It Again is one of those hard to categorize novels. It has so many different genre elements mixed in—time travel, fantasy/paranormal, coming-of-age, and definitely suspense—and yet the book pulls off this blending perfectly. Is this typical of a Geoff North story—the blend of many different genre styles and elements into a cohesive whole?
Geoff: Actually, Live it Again didn’t start out as any of those. I originally classified it in my head as fictional memoir. But well, yeah, things kind of took a genre-twist when the MC died and travelled back in time almost four decades. And of course I had to give it a good dose of horror, because that’s what I love reading and writing the most.
Annie: You’ve mentioned that you used to illustrate political cartoons and have dabbled in comics, but have largely focused your recent creative energy on writing. Do you still illustrate? Is this something that you’d like to return to in the future?
Geoff: I’ve been illustrating since I was a little kid. Around age ten I started making my own comic books – that’s where the writing started. When I was in my early twenties, I found the writing much more enjoyable. I could hardly wait to get the damned pictures inked in to go with the words. It was much the same with political/gag cartoons. I could come up with a funny ideas – loved it in fact – but I got so sick of drawing them. Finally, at the age of 35, I decided I wanted to write books. It would be a few more years before I got around to it, but there was no looking back. I’ve retired from drawing, painting, cartooning…whatever. I have so many ideas to put to paper, but from now on, it will be with a keyboard, not a pencil.
Annie: Who are some of the writers that have most influenced you?
Geoff: Stephen King, of course. A few others are Carl Barks, George R. R. Martin, Robert E. Howard, Robert McCammon, Frank Miller, Ray Bradbury, Neil Gaiman, Arthur Conan Doyle, H. G. Wells, Stoker, Verne, and so on and so on and so on…
Annie: Has art or illustration influenced how you write in any way?
Geoff: The art of comic books has greatly influenced how and what I write. My favorite kind of fiction was found between the covers of classic horror comics such as Tales from the Crypt, Vault of Horror, House of Mystery, and The Unexpected. I guess that becomes pretty apparent after you read Live it Again!
Annie: Do you prefer to extensively plot your stories, or do you write them as they come to you?
Geoff: It’s still developing but at this point I would consider myself more plotter than pantser. I get the idea, see how it starts and figure out the ending. Then I go ahead and jot down individual chapter summaries in two or three sentences. As the story and the characters develop, the chapter summaries change a wee bit – two or three sentences turn into half page paragraph summaries. I like to keep on top of these outlines, because when I’m done writing the story, I have some decent synopsis material to work with.
Annie: There are many incredibly poignant scenes in this book. As a writer, do you feel a poignant scene is built on a stand-alone structure, perfect in its moment, or is the power in such a scene built on the back of every word that came before it?
Geoff: Setting the perfect moment can make your reader’s blood run cold, or it can make them laugh, and it can make them cry. I like to do all three in anything I write – or more depending on the tale – novel, short story, the length doesn’t matter. I guess playing with different emotional levels varies it for the reader. I like stories that play with my all of my emotions. A better way to explain it is like telling someone a story or joke sitting in front of me. Flowery words aren’t half as important as the delivery. So to answer your question, setting the moment is more important than the specific words used…yeah?
Annie: What’s next for Geoff North?
Geoff: Lots. I’ve finished the first draft of a YA urban fantasy with super-duper series, movie potential. I’m about a third through an adult-horror-romance-conspiracy theory story (how’s that for multi-task genre writing?). I’m also busy plotting away an on-going epic fantasy tale I would like to see delivered in quarterly electronic bursts. And I have half a dozen more novelette type horror stories whizzing around in the back of my brain waiting to come out.
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Here’s the blurb for Live It Again:
Knowing then what you know now…
Hugh Nance thought his wife whined too much and his three kids took everything for granted. Hugh Nance was ten years old.
When a bitter, unremarkable forty-seven-year old man’s life is cut short on an icy highway, he receives the opportunity to try again. Hugh is taken back to 1974–back to the body of his boyhood–with all the memories of his middle-aged life in tow. He must re-live the next three-and-a-half decades carefully, or he may never be reunited with his future wife, who he realizes means more to him than he thought. But the memories of his first family begin to fade as this second life proceeds; old habits kick in and unintended consequences make what seemed like every man’s dream into a nightmarish reality…